Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Crime and Incarceration of Ray Snowden

I just can't resist a good Idaho Pen story. Not directly Steunenberg related, but the video below is about an Idaho murder and the one and only hanging that took place at the old Idaho Penitentiary. We see our friend Rachelle Lattau, now Curatorial Registrar at the Idaho State Historical Museum, providing the tour and information about Snowden's stay at the pen. I believe Rachelle was the Interpretive Specialist at the time this video was made, just as she was during our November 2007 visit. I was of course in Boise at the time for the premiere showing of Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century. The small picture to the right is Rachelle and I during the special tour she hosted for us. Rachelle subsequently earned her well deserved promotion to Curatorial Registrar at the museum. 
(For those receiving automatic emails but not able to see the video about Ray Snowden immediately here and be taken directly to my blog. Better to go there anyway). 
Rather accidentally, I ran across an episode of Ghost Adventures filmed at the Idaho pen and looking for the ghost of Ray Snowden. I will leave you to find and view that program on your own if you haven't already. Can't say I was too impressed but always interesting to see the penitentiary. Ghost Adventures described Snowden as "the most notorious inmate confined to the halls of the Idaho State Penitentiary....a man once dubbed "Idaho's Jack the Ripper." I can understand such a characterization for the sake of program publicity, but Snowden hardly stands up to the notoriety of one Harry Orchard. At least they did include Harry on the website as another notorious inmate.
For those that have seen the Ghost Adventures program, they didn't find anything ghostly related to Ray Snowden. No unusual happenings or hauntings. But remember all those rattlesnakes the ghost hunters kept running into and screaming and jumping all over about while climbing the hill behind the pen--no surprise there as they were walking in Harry Orchard territory. 

Other Idaho Pen Stories
Another hanging almost took place at the Idaho pen, that of Douglas Van Vlack. There was a Steuneneberg twist to this one. See below.

Eveline "Belle" Steunenberg Letter to the Idaho State Prison Board Re: Douglas Van Vlack Execution

A Good Hanging Spoiled by John T. Richards

Husband Killer Lyda Southard

More Selected Blog Posts


Believe said...

I just visited the Old Idaho Pen. a few weeks ago for the first time in my life. I was there with my husband and daughter.
We were having a great time, learning some history and just enjoying our day together.
We heard about the place through the Ghost Adventures tv show. I don't remember what happened on the show, but since we are new to Idaho what I remember most is saying "oh we should go check it out".
When we went into the maximum security building all was okay. Went upstairs looked at the cells in Death row and all was fine. My husband and daughter continued walking and I followed a few minutes after into the next room not knowing what the room was. As soon as I stepped into the room, I stopped. My entire body got cold, I started feeling strange, like a sense of illness and anxiety. I asked my husband, what is this room? And as he stood by a glass window he answered look? I couldn't move and asked again, what is this room? My whole body is freezing cold and I got goosebumps as soon as I came in here.
He said again, come here and look. I walked to the window and it was where the executed Raymond Snowden. The trap doors floor, the thingy on the ceiling for the rope (sorry I don't remember the proper names for the things).
As I saw it, a big sense of sadness took over me and I felt like crying. I've never been that sensitive especially towards killers. NEVER.
I wanted to get out and felt really sick and as we went down the steps to the "body drop" area, non stop tears were running down my face and I felt a very strong feeling of sadness, devastation, sickness, something beyond my control. I wanted to get out of there, and as soon as we left the building, I was back to normal. That afternoon, all of us were sick. And it only lasted until the next day.
That place is haunted. What I experienced there are true signs of a haunted place. And I felt it for the first time in my life, so I do believe the ghost of that man is still there.

Thanks for reading and please visit again and see if it happens to you. I haven't stopped thinking about it since then.

John T. Richards said...

No doubt I will be back to the Pen as it is a must do on any Idaho trip. Why? Not sure if it is ghosts or what but it does elicit an eerie and emotional response. Knowing that I am walking in Harry Orchard's steps, sometimes looking at the gallows and wishing he had gotten to know that trap door as did Ray, and hearing the echos of the many men (and women like Lyda Southard) who spent time in those cell blocks. Thanks for your comments. Regards, John

Anonymous said...

If you want a really ghostly experience, visit the prison cemetery back behind the Botanical Gardens. That is where Ray Snowden is buried. Most of the graves are now marked "unknown" as over the years the mudslides have washed the graves and remains of some down the hillside. Ray Snowden is in an unmarked grave, but I believe I know where he is, as I had a very strange thing happen while I was standing in an area that I believe he is in. My nose started gushing blood, for no reason at all. I believe it was a happening caused by Ray, who was a murderer of several other women before Cora Dean (who is buried in the Cloverdale Cemetery on Fairview Ave.) You can find her grave on All this is very fascinating to myself and a lot of others. I worked at the old Idaho Penitentiary at Probation and Parole, which was in the building at the corner when you first turn off of Warm Springs Ave. I worked there in 1972 and with the Warden at the time, and have spent much time exploring the site when it was still being used and after. Visit the old cemetery sometime, but if you are a lady, be careful up there along the fence line because Ray Snowden didn't like women.